Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 27 July 2015 • Destination
The new Cilu Bintang Estate, Banda Neira, is the extension of Abba’s previous accommodation. Mutiara Guesthouse has made it to the Lonely Planet guidebook and has made a name for itself as a great affordable place to stay, but Abba feels there’s need for something more. Hence, the new Cilu Bintang Estate might probably be considered a hotel in Banda Neira, which has just opened since October 2014, if I’m not mistaken.
The hotel building is refurbished from an old social house for the rich during the colonial days. Sasha, of the Banda Neira Sea Hobbits, says that the idea came from the successful story of Kota Tua, Jakarta, where many of the historical buildings were refurbished and not torn down.
Upon arrival, I fell in love instantly with humongous VOC letters on the metal gate. It’s no less than grand, as it was supposed to be in previous times. It’s not an original gate, but I believe it was made based on it. These few things gave me a hunch that I was going to love this hotel in Banda Neira.
The spacious lobby was once a dancing floor. A glimpse of imagination easy took me back to those dancing days, with the sound of old Dutch songs played upon arrival. A bit of glamour were introduced with decoration details, which was a nice touch. Old reproduced maps also decorated the hall reminding us of the colonial days.
It also functioned well as a place to watch the ‘obligatory’ documentary movie about Banda Neira by BBC played by the hotel staff. When I say obligatory, I don’t mean it’s a must, just a strong suggestion from Abba to the new guests of the hotel. It was really good and educational! With high ceilings, the common room was a nice cool place to chill and pass glances with other guests.
Of course, the dining area was great too. Tables were set to create a friendly ambiance of a big feast at every mealtime. One part had a long table and bench like a canteen, another were round tables pushed together to create the same setting. It’s inevitable to speak to the person next to you and their company. Hence, each mealtime was a family gathering, sharing stories and experiences of what we did and what we should do on the islands.
Each room had a special name, Syahrir and Hatta to name a few. Because there aren’t too many rooms, names taken from Indonesian national heroes work. Following the original design of building, the rooms have high ceilings with tall double-panel wooden windows and doors. The interior is generally spacious with new wooden furniture. All main beds have posts, which adds more of the vintage ambiance. Beds and most of the furniture are embedded with the double-clove-and-nutmeg symbols that, I think, Abba added as part of the branding. There’s even a huge one on the top of the roof. Each room has a bathroom and AC, and guests are supplied with fresh daily towels. Something that you might not have expected from a hotel in Banda Neira, a quite remote island in Indonesia.
Can you see the nutmeg symbol?
Because the rooms followed the original building design, some room would seem to be in odd locations. Some were too close to the dining area, which might be an issue if you’re a light sleeper. So better check which rooms you’re about to occupy.
My room was the ‘Ratu’ or queen’s room, the only one on the second floor. It had more space than first floor quarters, the bathroom was unnecessary huge and had a window, it also had its own terrace with sun chairs. The view: the top of Gunung Api standing glorious and active in front of you. Nature’s best! Best room in the joint, aside to other issues of metaphysical beings. Oh well! What do you expect from an island of one of the earliest massacres in the world.
Rooms are IDR 350,000 – 450,000 / night, except for Ratu room which costs IDR 800,00/night. All include breakfast. Not bad for a hotel in Banda Neira.
It had been emphasized before the trip, that I had to try the food of Ibu Dilla, wife of Abba. It was said that her food was da bomb on the island and it was a phenomenon on its own. Exaggerated? Maybe! But I can assure you the food is no less that heaven sent.
The food claims to have no MSG or preservatives. I think, since the islands are so small, the fresh ingredients also contribute to the good food. All the fish are fresh catch, and they’re like a meter long! There’s always a trolley delicious dishes, with tasty food, seasoned just right, and combined with a fun variant of taste. It’s a three-course meal; with main course is a buffet most of the time. Ain’t that grand?! Seconds were a no brainer.
If the food is heaven sent, than Ibu Dilla is an angel. She makes and coordinates the food coming in and out of the kitchen. The most anticipated dish was the eggplant in tropical walnut sauce. It’s the cause of seconds and thirds! Her bread for breakfast is one of my favorites, combined with her homemade nutmeg jam (yes, nutmeg jam!). It works extremely well with her warm bread or pancake. I looked forward to breakfast every day!
Her food was so good, we had people from the Mutiara Guesthouse coming in especially for dinner, and repeat over during their period of stay. Need I say more?
From the city tour, bike rentals, to the climb up the Gunung Api, the Cilu Bintang Estate can arrange everything. It’s possible to vacate as hard as you work, as the hotel can prepare back-to-back activities for those visiting. Thus, and in cooperation with the Banda Neira Sea Hobbit, land and sea are covered.
During my stay, I did the town tour of historical sites n the Neira Island, The Spice tour, which takes you to the spice plantations, snorkeling, diving, entering the fort at night, and climbed the Gunung Api (yes, I made it to the top). There are more activities up their sleeves and they’re also along with your wishes as long as they are doable.
Location: Neira Island, in front of the Belgica Fort main entrance.
Phone: +62 910 21604
Mobile: Abba + 62 813 3034 3377
Website: www.cilubintang.com (currently under construction)
For activities, you can go diving in Banda Neira. More of the story on this link.